You may be required to give evidence in court – perhaps more than once. At court, a victim is called a witness.
If you are required to give evidence in court, you will be advised or sent a letter (a subpoena or a witness summons) telling you when and where to go. When giving evidence it is important that, before you go to court, you find out as much as you can about what will happen on the day.
Oath or affirmation
At a court hearing, when it is your turn, your name will be called and you will be shown to the witness box at the front of the courtroom. A court officer will ask you to swear a religious oath to tell the truth.
If you prefer to make a non-religious affirmation, tell the court officer when you arrive at court.
You may be asked questions by the legal representative of both the prosecution side and the defendant's side. In some cases, the person involved in the crime may be representing themselves and will ask the questions.
The judge or magistrate may also ask questions you about your evidence.
When giving evidence:
- take your time
- remain calm and speak clearly
- if you don't understand a question or you didn't hear it properly, ask for it to be repeated.
If you feel upset or distressed:
- take some deep breaths or have a drink of water
- try to relax
- continue only when you are ready.
Once you are excused from the court you are free to leave. You can also stay to see the rest of the hearing from the public seating area of the court.
Evidence from vulnerable witnesses and victims
Generally, a victim or witness will give evidence in the courtroom itself. However, there are special provisions may be available for particularly vulnerable witnesses. This includes children and people with a cognitive impairment. If this applies to you, special provisions may include:
- having a friend or relative in court while you give evidence, provided that this support person is not also appearing as a witness
- having a screen in the court, so you do not have to see the accused person while you give evidence
- having the court closed to the public while you give evidence
- giving your evidence on closed circuit television.
Vulnerable witnesses can ask the prosecutor to apply to the court to give evidence using these special provisions. It is up to the judge or magistrate to decide whether to grant permission to use them.